How to Wash a Quilt and Other Care Tips

By Geoff McKinnen Certified Sleep Coach

Last Updated On April 18th, 2024
How to Wash a Quilt and Other Care Tips

Key Takeaways

  • Check the Care Label: Always start by checking the care label on your quilt for washing instructions to ensure you follow the best method for cleaning it.
  • Hand Washing Your Quilt: For handmade quilts, opt for hand washing with cold water and mild detergent, taking care to mend any holes or loose threads before cleaning.
  • Drying Gently: After washing, air dry your quilt on a flat surface or with a thick bed of towels to prevent fabric damage and color fading. Fluff and fold your quilt for storage, and occasionally air it out to keep it fresh.

Quilts, those cozy and charming bed companions, demand our care and attention. Whether you’re snuggling up under one during chilly nights or displaying it for all to see, keeping a quilt fresh is a must. This article is your guide to quilt maintenance, ensuring it stays lovely for years.

But how exactly do you wash a quilt? Quilts, like loyal friends, stand up to daily life, from pet paws to kids’ spills. They become repositories of memories, both cherished and mundane. A quilt is a cozy, thin layer with soft padding sandwiched between lovely fabrics. You might have hesitated to wash it, fearing harm.

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Perhaps you’re the proud owner of a precious antique or heirloom quilt, or maybe you pour your heart into every quilt you create. Regardless of your quilt’s origin, we’ve got you covered. Many folks are unsure how to care for these handcrafted treasures but fret not, we’re here to share the secrets of quilt care.

Now, let’s dive into the steps to wash quilts, ensuring they stay fresh and cozy for years to come.

Checking the Care Label

Before you begin washing your quilt, take a moment to check the label for valuable washing instructions. These included laundry care instructions and washing symbols can guide you on the best way to care for your quilt, whether it requires a gentle hand wash or can be machine washed.

The care label is like a map, showing you the safest path to keep your quilt fresh and vibrant for years to come. So, always start your quilt-cleaning adventure by reading and following the label’s wise advice.

Hand Washing Your Quilt

For your handmade quilt, remember, only wash it when really needed to avoid fading, usually not more than twice a year. The gentlest way is hand-washing with cold water and mild detergent.

Before immersing it in water, make sure your cleaning tub is clean and empty, ready to cradle your beloved quilt during its refreshing bath. Make sure the quilt is also in good condition, with no open tears, rips, or loose threads. Remember, proper preparation ensures your quilt remains a cozy and beautiful keepsake for years to come.

If you’re using quilt wash, mix two scoops in a gallon of lukewarm water and stir it up well. Get your quilt into the water, use your hands to fully soak it, and then give it a gentle stir to make sure the water and detergent reach all the fibers, removing any dirt. This careful process will help your handmade quilt stay in its best shape.

Gathering Your Supplies

Before you embark on hand-washing your quilt properly, it’s crucial to gather all your supplies. Ensuring you have gentle detergent and cold water at hand is essential for a successful quilt-cleaning adventure. In the upcoming steps, we’ll guide you through this process so that your quilt can stay fresh and cozy.

Get everything ready before you start:

  • Mild laundry detergent
  • Clean and prepare the bathtub or basin
  • Lint roller brush
  • Soft-bristle brush
  • Clean, thick towels

Preparing Your Quilt

Preparing your hand-quilted masterpiece for a thorough wash is a crucial step in its care. Begin by giving it a good shake outdoors to rid it of dust and debris. Then, run that lint roller over it to pick up anything that you missed.

Take a close look at your quilt, examining it for any signs of wear and tear like stretched seams, loose threads, or small tears.

If you spot any issues, don’t worry. A sewing kit can be your trusty sidekick.  Mend any holes, rips, or tears carefully, and trim away those pesky loose threads.

Ensuring Your Tub is Clean

Ensuring your tub is clean is an essential step in preparing for the rinsing process or a machine wash. Before you start cleaning your quilt, you want to make sure that the tub or sink you’ll be using is free from any dirt or debris. A clean space provides a sanitary environment for your quilt and prevents any particles from transferring onto it during the washing process.

Dirt or grime that you wash away in the tub or sink can otherwise interfere with the rinsing process and may even lead to unwanted stains on your quilt. To avoid this, take a moment to thoroughly clean and inspect the washing area before you begin.

This simple but crucial step ensures that your quilt will come out of the wash looking fresh and clean, without any unexpected surprises. So, always remember to start with a clean washing space to ensure the best results when caring for your quilt.

Washing Your Quilt

Washing your handmade quilt is a delicate task that requires special care. Start by adding a bit of mild dishwashing liquid to the water, ensuring it’s just enough to create a gentle cleaning solution. To handle your quilt with the utmost care, use a soft-bristle brush for delicate scrubbing, removing any stubborn spots or stains.

Once your quilt is in the water, it’s time to let it soak and work its magic. Ensure the entire quilt is submerged and then gently start moving it around in the water.

As you soak and gently agitate the quilt, it helps the wet quilt absorb the soapy goodness and loosens up any trapped dirt or grime. So, let your quilt take a soothing bath, and with a gentle touch, let it dance in the water for a thorough cleaning.

Rinsing Your Quilt

Once you’ve done the washing it’s time to rinse out the soapy suds to avoid any lingering residue. Empty your tub, sink, or basin, then refill it with fresh, cold water. Perform more agitating movements to help the water remove any remaining detergent, continuing to refill and rinse until the quilt is free of suds and such.

Drying Your Quilt

If you like air drying, handmade quilts might be too heavy for hanging. If you have an extra-large drying rack, that’s perfect for this job. If not, create a thick bed of towels on a flat surface in direct sunlight.

During the drying process, your handmade quilt needs special care. After thoroughly rinsing the quilt, press down on it with your hands while it’s still in the basin to remove excess water.

Drain the tub completely, and then use your hands to push out any remaining water from each area of the quilt until your hands can’t press more (this may take some time, so stay patient). Avoid wringing the quilt, as it can twist the fibers, leading to tearing, fraying, or puckering.

Instead, you can gently squeeze out any excess water and lay it flat on a big, clean surface or a flat rack.

Alternatively, move the slightly damp quilt onto a bed of clean towels and spread it out entirely flat on the ground. To speed up drying, place a fan on the floor or open a window. Add more thick towels on top of the quilt to help soak up some of the water. This way, your quilt will dry nicely through air drying.

To protect your flooring, you can place plastic sheeting, a shower curtain or two, or even an upcycled old sheet of water-resistant microfiber under the quilt if needed.

Remember to turn the quilt every three to five hours to ensure even drying. Handmade quilts can be heavy when wet, so having an extra pair of hands will make the drying process much easier.

While it might be tempting to airdry the quilt outside, it’s wise to avoid doing so for too long. Too much sunlight can fade the vibrant colors of your handmade quilt.

Machine Washing Your Quilt

Machine washing your quilt is a convenient and efficient way to maintain its freshness and cleanliness without putting too much stress on yourself. When it’s time to give your quilt a thorough clean, using your washing machine can make the task much easier.

In this part of our guide, we’ll explore the steps and precautions to take when machine washing your quilt. To sum it up, the gentle cycle with cold water is your ally in ensuring your quilt comes out clean without causing any damage. You may still want to handwash the quilt first, then follow it up with a light machine wash.

So, if you’re ready to learn how to use your machine for quilt care, read on to discover the tips and techniques that will keep your quilt looking and feeling its best while avoiding too much stress.

Testing for Colorfastness

Before washing a quilt you’ve purchased from a commercial retailer, it’s crucial to follow the manufacturer’s care tag instructions, but always make sure to perform a colorfastness test to avoid quilt bleed. Quilt bleed can spell disaster for your entire cherished blanket.

If your quilt isn’t colorfast, it’s best to dry clean it to prevent any color mishaps. Let’s delve into how to conduct a colorfastness test to ensure your quilt’s colors won’t bleed.

To perform this test, take a white cloth and dampen it. Then, gently rub it along an inconspicuous section of the quilt.

If you notice any color transferring onto the white cloth or if the colors visibly fade during this process, it’s a clear sign that your quilt isn’t colorfast. This means the dye will run when washed.

To maintain your quilt’s vibrancy, the general advice is to wash it only when truly necessary, ideally not more than twice a year. Hand-washing with cold water and mild detergent is the preferred method.

And when you do decide to wash your quilt, it’s wise to use the delicate cycle on your washing machine. This setting offers the slowest wash and spin cycle options available, helping to protect your quilt’s colors and prevent any unfortunate quilt bleed incidents.

Washing Gently

When it comes to washing your quilt, it’s essential to handle it with care. Begin by pre-treating any stains using an appropriate stain remover to ensure they don’t set in during the wash.

Then take the time to mend any holes, rips, or tears that you may find on your quilt, as this will prevent further damage and help it last longer. Make sure to also trim away any loose threads to prevent them from tangling or causing snags during the washing process.

By paying attention to these details and handling your quilt gently, you’ll ensure that it comes out of the wash looking fresh and beautiful, ready to provide warmth and comfort for years to come. So, remember to treat your quilt with care and take these steps to maintain its quality and appearance.

Soaking Your Quilt in Water

Soaking your quilt in room-temperature water is a gentle and effective way to prepare it for cleaning. When you’re ready to give your quilt a thorough cleanse, begin by filling your tub or basin with lukewarm water. This temperature is ideal because it helps to loosen dirt and stains without subjecting your quilt to extreme conditions.

Before you start the soaking process, pre-wash your quilt in soapy water to remove any surface dust and debris. Once that’s done, it’s time to let your quilt soak. Submerge it completely in the lukewarm water, allowing it to absorb the soapy goodness. This step is essential for ensuring that the soap reaches all parts of the quilt, helping to dislodge and lift away any dirt or grime.

After soaking your quilt, remember to follow up with the appropriate washing method, such as using the gentle cycle in your washing machine or hand washing with a soft-bristle brush. By following these steps, you’ll help ensure that your quilt stays fresh and clean, ready to provide warmth and comfort for years to come.

Using Mild Detergent & Dye Magnets

When it comes to washing your quilt, selecting a mild detergent is crucial. Choose a gentle detergent that’s suitable for delicate fabrics to keep your quilt in the best condition. You may also want to use detergent to add on a pre-wash cycle.

Pre-washing is entirely up to you, and it’s a personal decision. However, if you’re worried about your fabric bleeding and want some peace of mind before beginning your project, it can be a smart choice.

Additionally, even if you’ve tested for colorfastness, it’s essential to use a dye magnet like a color catcher sheet, especially in a washing machine on a gentle cycle. These sheets are specifically designed to catch dye and prevent it from transferring to your quilt or other fabrics.

Don’t skip using these color grabber or catcher sheets because they play a vital role in maintaining the vibrancy of your quilt’s colors. By taking care to pick the right detergent and using color catcher sheets, you’ll ensure that your quilt remains vibrant, fresh, and clean during the washing process, preserving its beauty for years to come.

Completing Clean Water Rinses

When rinsing the quilt, it’s essential to follow the machine washing instructions for your quilt. This ensures that you’re not just washing the quilt but also preparing it for the drying process that follows.

By thoroughly rinsing your quilt in a washing machine, you prevent any detergent buildup. Letting this buildup occur can affect the quilt’s texture and color over time.

Clean water rinses are the final touch that guarantees your quilt is fresh and ready to provide warmth and comfort. So, don’t rush this step, and make sure to rinse your quilt multiple times to ensure it’s truly clean and ready for the next part of the process.

Many machines let you add on extra rinsing, and we recommend taking advantage of it for your quilt. By doing so, you’ll maintain your quilt’s quality and ensure it remains a cozy companion for years to come.

Drying Gently

After washing your quilt, it’s time to handle it with care and proceed with the drying process. It’s important to dry your quilt gently and avoid wringing it out. To prevent fabric shrinkage and damage, we strongly recommend following the air drying instructions provided for most quilts. We outlined a few possibilities above in the hand washing section.

Air drying is a gentle and effective way to preserve the quality and appearance of your quilt. By allowing it to dry naturally, you reduce the risk of any fabric shrinkage or damage that might occur during more vigorous drying methods. It will ensure that your quilt remains in great condition, ready to provide warmth and comfort for many years to come.

However, if you’re pressed for time or don’t have drying space, and you’re willing to risk fiber shrinkage, you can try a partial run in the dryer. Make sure to run it on a low heat or no heat cycle, using tumble dry until the quilt is near dry. Then let it finish air drying.

Fluffing and Folding Quilts

Cleaning quilts might seem like a daunting task, but the rewarding results make it all worthwhile. After you wash your quilt, it’s important to give it some care. Start by giving your quilt a gentle shake to help fluff it up. This will ensure it stays soft and cozy.

Then, fold it neatly to keep it organized and ready for use, if it will not be immediately spread out on your bed. Properly storing quilts is essential to maintain their quality and appearance. So, remember to fluff and fold your quilt after washing, and you’ll have a comfy companion for years to come.

Other Maintenance Tips

When it comes to maintaining your quilts, there are some essential tips to keep in mind. First, remember to air them out occasionally to keep them fresh and cozy, not just after washing them.

If spills happen, tackle them quickly to prevent stains from setting in. It’s also crucial to shield your quilts from direct sunlight to avoid fading. As with duvets and duvet covers, you may want to look into fabric coverings for your quilts that provide thorough protection.

If you detect any faint odors from sweat and such, you can freshen up your quilt with a gentle sprinkling of baking soda. This should neutralize any smells without requiring a full washing of the quilt.

By following these maintenance tips, you’ll help your quilts stay in great shape and ready to provide warmth and comfort.

More Cleaning Guides for Bedding and Mattresses

For mattresses:

For pillows:

For sheets:

For blankets and other coverings:

For other bedding items:


What is the best way to wash a handmade quilt?

When washing a handmade quilt, it’s essential to handle it with care to preserve its intricate design and delicate fabrics. Check for any specific cleaning instructions from the quilt maker. If none are to be had, use a gentle detergent, preferably one formulated for delicate fabrics.

Fill a bathtub or large basin with cold water and add the detergent. Submerge the quilt and gently agitate the water to loosen the dirt. Avoid scrubbing or wringing the quilt, as this can damage the fibers.

Drain the water, refill the tub with clean water, and gently rinse the quilt. Squeeze out excess water by pressing, not wringing. Lay the quilt flat on a clean, white towel to absorb excess moisture, then place it on a flat surface to air dry, away from direct sunlight.

How do you clean a quilt without washing it?

There are a few ways to freshen up a quilt without directly washing it. First, lightly vacuum the quilt using a handheld upholstery attachment to remove surface dust. To remove surface dirt, gently brush the quilt with a soft bristle brush.

You can also use a fabric freshener spray to eliminate odors or sprinkle baking soda across it as you would to deodorize a mattress. Always test any cleaning method on a small, inconspicuous area before applying it to the entire quilt.

Can I dry clean a quilt?

While washing a quilt can be tricky, we cannot recommend drying as an alternative. The chemicals used in the dry cleaning process can be harsh and potentially damage the delicate fabrics and colors of the quilt. Instead, it’s often safer to follow the care instructions provided on the quilt’s label.

If you do choose a dry cleaner to clean your quilt, make sure they have experience in treating delicate fabrics.

How often do you need to wash a quilt?

Generally, quilts don’t need frequent washing as they are often used for decoration or added warmth on top of sheets and aren’t in direct contact with a sleeper. However, how often you will need to wash yours can depend on its usage, exposure to dirt, and personal preference.

A good rule of thumb is to wash a quilt every one to two years, or as needed. If the quilt becomes visibly soiled or develops an odor, it’s time for a cleaning. Consider using a quilt sleeve or cover to protect the quilt, as you would with a duvet, and reduce the need for frequent washings.

Can you wash a quilt in a washing machine?

Machine washing is suitable for machine-pieced quilts without delicate embellishments or fragile fabrics. Use a gentle cycle with cold water and a mild detergent. Place the quilt in a laundry bag or pillowcase to protect it from friction. Avoid using a top-loading agitator machine, as it can be harsh on the quilt.

After washing, lay the quilt flat to air dry or hang it on a line, avoiding direct sunlight.

How do you restore an old quilt?

Begin by assessing the quilt’s condition and identifying any areas of damage. Consider consulting a professional quilt restorer or conservator if the quilt has loose seams or missing stitches. If the quilt is severely damaged, seek guidance from a quilt preservation specialist to determine the best course of action for restoration.

To keep a quilt in the best condition when not in use, store it in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight, and avoid folding it along the same lines to prevent weakening the fibers.


Washing a quilt doesn’t have to be a daunting task. With the right care and attention, you can keep your beloved quilt fresh and cozy for years to come. Whether you choose to hand wash or use a machine, remember to follow the specific instructions for your quilt type, and handle it gently throughout the process.

By maintaining your quilt’s cleanliness and quality, you’ll ensure that it remains a cherished companion, preserving warmth and cherished memories for generations to come.

About the author

Geoff McKinnen is a writer focusing mainly on the healthcare industry and has written articles on everything from foods to help you lose weight to the connection between Alzheimer’s and sleep. Geoff’s passionate about helping readers improve their well-being to lead happier lives. Outside of work, Geoff enjoys cycling and hiking and believes that by leading a healthy lifestyle, he can help others do the same.

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